Last week, I had three peppers become separated right above the ground. Is it a cutworm? Is it a bird? The peppers just seem not to be growing much outside too. It may still be pretty cold for them. So I cheated and bought an orange and green bell pepper plant. I also bought a poblano pepper plant for fun. The transplanted Hungarian hot wax pepper form last year decided to bloom out, so it can’t be that bad for peppers outside.
I also bought a Japanese eggplant. Hopefully it will do better than the eggplants I had last year that never created a fruit bigger than a baseball.
I have tried to grow leeks so many times this year. I’ve run out of seed and I had no seedlings to show for it. I also purchased a pot of leeks, and separated them out around the garden. I’ve never grown them before, but this looks like the only way I’ll be able to do it.
All of my green onion seeds have been duds too. Bought the last packet I’m going to buy, and we’ll see what happens. My mother planted a bunch of Egyptian walking onions in the compost pile last year, and those are going pretty strong. Maybe we can subsist of of those for a while. I really like to put green onions in salsa.
You can definitely tell the cherry/grape tomatoes from the other ones. The cherry/grape tomatoes are always much taller, and I’ll have to cage them soon! I haven’t even staked them yet.
This year, I didn’t buy compost. I scraped the bottom of the compost pile out back, and transferred and mixed that soil into last year’s beds. This resulted in 4 kinds of weeds: wild thyme, tomatoes, fennel, and cumbers. I’ve been digging out the cucumbers and transplanting them. Fennel gets pretty big, so I’ve only transplanted a few of those. The tomatoes and the rest of the fennel get ripped out!
Last night I made some more jelly. I am absolutely horrified by the amount of sugar in jelly, but I understand it is a critical part of the preservation process. I made the Herb Jelly from the Ball Book of Home Preservation. I had a thyme plant that was getting old and needed to be split.
Another website suggested giving thyme a “haircut” to keep it healthy. I thought I had 2 cups of “loosely packed herbs”, but I don’t think I had enough. I added some parsley and rosemary. The jelly is made with cider (no sugar added) and vinegar (I used cider vinegar). It resulted in a very crisp and tart flavored jelly, with a hint of thyme. I was really afraid of over-herbing this one after under-jelling the last bunch.
It came out very tasty, but not as herby as I would have liked. It jelled like magic though!
The garden is coming along. I got my peppers in the ground. The kale is blooming, so I need to yank it out. I already lost one bell pepper to some sort of snapped center stalk.
The pollen around Conway is really bad right now. I took some pictures of my car this morning. At work in Little Rock, a co-worker noted how much more yellow my car is compared to the other local cars on the lot.
I decided to start preserving some of my excess herbs by making a savory jelly. My neighbor Sam wants to do that sometime, but she doesn’t want to make marmalade, so I followed this recipe for Quick Lemon Ginger Marmalade by myself.
EPIC FAIL: I ended up with ~15oz of extra marmalade. By chemistry experiment quantitative standards, this is a disaster. Everything would be fine if recipes displayed measurements in teaspoons or tablespoons of Sure-Jell or Certo or some other pectin product. In my home preserving book, measurements for these items are always by the package. For my recipe, I needed exactly one package of powdered pectin to 58 oz of marmalade (NOT 73 oz). Now I know next time this happens to break down the package into ounces or teaspoons and add the required amount.
I wasn’t that careless with my measurements, but exactly how much ginger do you need to shred to get 1 cup? What do you do with the excess ginger? Exactly how much lemon zest comes off of 6 lemons? I thought I had exactly 1 cup of juice. Maybe I should have cooked the mixture with the lid off. Maybe I shouldn’t have put the mixture sans sugar and pectin in the fridge overnight.
Another problem with the jelly-making process is that when the liquid is hot, you can’t exactly tell how it will set. I thought the marmalade was coating a spoon properly for the hot test. When I scrubbed the pot, what was left was very sticky and thick. When everything cooled, the marmalade looked very watery. FAIL.
I’ve heard jelly is a little bit more forgiving, and it is easier to get exactly “4 cups of strawberries” as opposed to 1 cup of ginger that may have been way too watery.
It is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Numerous times when I lived in Lincoln, I’d get a phone call from my mother before going home for Easter. She’d ask, “Could you pick up a bottle of Windsor Canadian Whiskey?”, or “Could you pick up an extra 24-pack of Busch Lite?” The answer would always be “No, it’s the law.” The blue laws in Lincoln dictated that no wine, beer, or liquor could be sold before noon on Sunday. This is actually a big step. Earlier in the 1990s there were no Sunday package sales in the city.
Another time, I wanted to make an Irish cream cake before a blizzard came in to town at noon. It is as if the people who write blue laws don’t consider the culinary value in pink vodka spaghetti sauce, adding wine to any recipe a la Justin Wilson, beer cheese soup, or even as a method of fruit preservation.
When we moved to Arkansas the laws were much stricter. I have to drive at least 20 minutes to get to the liquor store. You can go 3 blocks down the street at our house and buy an over-priced Bud Light, and drink it in an entirely too loud, overpriced pizza atmosphere. That’s not really my style.
The problem here in the south is that nobody wants a liquor store in his or her backyard, even a fancy-schmancy one with a wine-tasting bar like they have in Little Rock. All of the grocery stores are too small to have a decent liquor section even in wet counties in Arkansas, and I think it may offend the Baptists. One wonderful thing about Lincoln were all of the liquor stores attached to the regular grocery stores. The price and selection at Hy-Vee, Super Saver, and Russ’s is something to embrace and to cherish. (The local beer selection alone at the Hy-Vee near 48th and O St deserves an award and your patronage.)
The with three colleges, city of Conway in Faulkner county is really growing right now. Four years ago, restaurants couldn’t serve alcohol and the gastronomic choices in the community really suffered. Now we can at least go down the street and watch Sunday football, have a beer, and eat a pizza. The educated contingent in the community is really growing too, so that means more people who want to have a convenient drink at home or at a party. That means more people who want to make Flaming Cherries Jubilee at the spur of the moment, and you can’t do it with out brandy!
Finally, distributors aren’t allowed into the county. Restaurants have to bus in their own booze. They use inefficient vehicles and drivers who usually do other things to get the booze from the same places where private citizens buy their beer, wine, or liquor. Let me make this clear: each restaurant has to send a truck down to Little Rock, and bring it back filled with what they need. In the sane world, the Budweiser truck comes up once a week and serves all of the restaurants. The current scenario is completely unsustainable from a petroleum usage aspect. Oh yeah did I mention the 40 minute round-trip drive to the liquor store for the private citizen? That is 1 to 2 gallons of gas per trip. Multiply this trip by a quarter of the residents of Conway (2008 special census) at an average rate of one trip per month, and that is 172,632 gallons of gas. I’m not even going to touch all of the lost tax revenue exiting our city and county, and that is a much stronger point than the wasted gas.
In the past year, the 4 empty apartments next to our tower have become occupied! They’re getting together and making their own community garden. They’re working on a rainwater irrigation system, and just started planting this week. Here are some pictures from this week when they added some compost to the raised beds.
We also had a small asparagus harvest this week.
Everything I planted is just starting to come up. There is some bad news, I’ve had three tomatoes die on me. Two look like they were cut off or snipped off by animals, and one just was dead one day. Almost all of the cucumbers I started inside died, but I’ve got plenty of volunteer ones coming up this week. I’ll have to transplant those. Some of the lettuce has changed from seedling to something that actually looks like lettuce. Some of the weeds look like hundreds of tiny tomatoes, maybe they are?